The Netherlands should be at the forefront of an EU movement to ban produce from the Palestinian occupied territories, writes Jaap Hamburger
The ChristenUnie and Israel information and documentation centre CIDI reacted as if stung by a wasp when foreign minister Frans Timmermans spoke of his intention of labelling produce from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. ‘Discrimination’ ChristenUnie MP Joël Voordewind cried. His party launched a petition against the decision, while CIDI called it ‘gesture politics’ and pointed out that Israel ‘should not be treated differently from other countries’.
The advice to put the place of origin on the label of produce from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights comes in the wake of earlier EU discussions on the subject. The EU stance on the settlements in the occupied territories is clear: they are illegal according to international law and form one of the biggest obstacles for an end to occupation and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
These settlements, and this is essential, are not part of Israel, no matter how much the Israeli government and the ChristenUnie would like us to believe they are. The international community does not recognise the settlements as Israeli territory. They remain the anything-but-kosher monstrosities Israel created in the Palestinian occupied territories. That fact alone warrants the correct labelling of settlement produce.
Made in Israel
Labelling these products ‘Made in Israel’ is simply factually incorrect. Naming the proper provenance of the produce is righting a wrong that has been allowed to continue for far too long and there is nothing discriminatory or anti-Israel about that. On the contrary, it allows us to buy products from Israel safe in the knowledge they are actually from Israel, not ‘Israel’.
That is why the Netherlands should take the next step and ban settlement produce completely. Israel and the Palestinians have been embroiled in conflict for decades. The Israeli occupation has deprived Palestinians of their civic and human rights, denied them their collective right to self-determination, corrupted the Israeli state and harmed Israeli democracy. Any step to discredit the occupation and end this conflict and its concomitant human rights infractions is worthwhile. It will take more than ending the settlement policy alone, but if it were to happen a major obstacle would be out of the way.
Serious peace negotiations between equal parties are to be applauded but the truth is that attempts at such negotiations have been few and far between during the past few years. On the contrary, Israel seems to think that enough irrevocable facts – like increasing the number of settlements – will consolidate and somehow ‘legalise’ the occupation. This means the pressure on Israel – the strongest party in the conflict and the one that has the key to the solution to the problem – will have to be increased in other ways.
As long as settlement produce is being allowed onto the Dutch and European market, the settlements profit financially and this contributes to their consolidation. Consumers who are putting produce ‘from Israel’ in their shopping carts are unwittingly helping the cruel, redundant and nefarious Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The continuation of the occupation, moreover, is also a dead-end street for Israel itself. That is what critics like the ChristenUnie and CIDI, who are calling themselves ‘friends of Israel’, should be worried about.
The correct labelling of produce, in line with European agreements, is a good first step. It provides clarity for the Dutch consumer and justice for the Palestinians and it is also in Israel’s best interest. The Netherlands, as a friend of Israel, should be at the forefront of an EU movement towards a total ban on settlement produce. The Palestinians, Israelis and Dutch would all benefit.
Jaap Hamburger is chairman of Een Ander Joods Geluid
This article appeared earlier in the Volkskrant
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